Log:Seeds of the Future
The skies have been clear about half an hour. Xavier's hut has window boxes with experimental plants carefully and efficiently watered by a drip system. The Biochemist is in a Reaper style jumpsuit with gloves and headwrap still on. Right now they are furtively pouring water into the vessel that feeds the tubing. The tiny hut is otherwise sparsely furnished with a narrow bed, foot locker, and a small work table mostly used for plant care related activity. This is the only thing in the hut besides the window boxes not kept extremely clean and neat. Right now X's plant observation notebook, a small knife, and a pencil are in it.
Faustina has on an extra coat over her usual uniform as well as a scarf which she has clearly loosened on her way through the garden, but left draped over her head, just no longer covering her face. Most people would be unlikely to notice, but to Xavier, she clearly looks tired and slightly frazzled, though she relaxes very slightly as she sets eyes on him and he is up and moving. "You are well? Did we have any loses?"
Xavier starts and nearly drops the flask. They set it down quickly, blushing. They dart in for one of their super quick hugs and step back, "I didn't hurt myself! It's just bruises!" They say with real feeling. "I'm glad you're all right. That was a bad one I think. Um... a big tray of pea seedlings smashed when we were bringing it in from up top when Kisses fell and he's banged up, but Timmy saved him and he saved me so no harm done, right?
Faustina accepts the hug, even hugging back and then he can watch the tension creep back in at his statements. "Both of you are more valuable than pea seedlings." There is a pause and finally she adds. "I am glad that there was not more extensive harm, yes." She gets that tiny almost frown she does. "I need more data. We need better protocols."
Xavier is really cheerful, and happily babbles on, "Timmy and I were mostly tarping up the up top greenery. I only was at the scaffold after. Once they pulled me back up, I hid in the Fungus Farm until it was all over. Have you ever really Looked at the mushrooms? They're amazing! They have, like a ton of genders and they do all these cool things and they come in all these shapes and colours and I think I like it when I'm compared to mushrooms now." They nod, "I hope all the war Kids were okay. We, um, worry about them." they cock their head, "You're all right, aren't you? It's so much more work for you monitors than it is for us once the initial battening is over. have you, um, slept? Eaten? Gad enough water?" Their pupil dilation seems normal for the light level as well as their coordination.
Faustina nods slowly, studying him carefully. "I have seen the mushrooms, though I do not know all the details. I leave that to the savvy. I am aware of their importance to the system. I have not, yet, checked on loses among the Children of War, though I am sure some will come from the additional exposure and it is so difficult to properly attribute such things when the consequences are months or even years away. I will check on known, immediate loses later. I have eaten and drunk water. I will sleep later. I can not sleep, now. I am functioning."
Xavier is studying her right back with intelligent, concerned eyes. They aren't particularly good at reading people, but they know their sister, "Functioning, but are you okay? Really?"
Faustina makes a slightly frustrated sound. "I can not answer that. I am... not injured. Mark was over at the Garage when the storm blew in and others needed to take him protective gear. I have been analyzing frequency and severity of storms and costs of maintaining equipment protective equipment properly in all towers and revising our storm protocols and reminding people what those protocols are before storms hit and... I have been reminded how fragile Sanctuary actually is and I do not like it when that happens."
Xavier's eyes go wide, "Oh wow! It's not just us? Kisses and I are really scared we don't have enough genetic diversity in people and plants! A single blight or the wrong storm damage and.... it's not just us? You have no idea how.... I live in fear of even one small thing going wrong."
Faustina shakes her head. "It is not just you. I worry. Some others do as well. This is why I say you and KissThisThen are valuable and protect your resources. But even if we have the diversity, problems with our supplies from the Gastown and the Bullet Farm, fewer and fewer things for scavengers to scavenge - at some point supplies from the world past will be used up or too broken. We have no idea the damage the storm has done to any of the other settlements, yet. We do not know how it damaged Solaris. If anything ever poisons or obstructs the aquifer. There are..." She makes another frustrated noise. "Nevermind. We must work with what we have, but unpredictable problems upset me."
Xavier keeps nodding as she talks, "We talk about that stuff too. I wish... Kisses wants to do some breeding experiments but I don't know if he'll be able to get them approved. For the mushrooms, I mean. Not people." They look down, contemplating. Decition made, they lift their chin, "I have trouble remembering which things are against the rules. I get scared to ask what the rules I'm fuzzy on because I worry they'll, um, stop me. And I feel weird about owning things at all? Most of the time."
They look around them at the small plants, "I... use water and tubing that's supposed to be for the lab for these, and I took some, um, fertilized soil. I check the marketplace for scavenged seeds and chemical or pill samples. The chemical stuff is for the lab, so I can analyze them, so I know that's okay. I don't know if the seeds are or the equipment to do the sample batches. I'm scared it's not, like all the time."
They look pleadingly at their sister. "Most of the seeds are dead, but when they aren't? I'm using resources I maybe shouldn't, but I can't think of another way to find out what they are and what the properties of the plants are and what conditions they might need. I am terrified all the time that I'll need to take all this down and the seeds... they make me feel safer. Most of them... aren't as useful as the plants we already have, but I think, what if there's a blight? Or less water and we need something we can grow with less even if it doesn't yield as much and some of them... are part of lost ecosystems and no use at all unless we had a lot more land and a real ecosystem outside of the Fungus farm and.... It feels like the right thing to do? for the future? But i'm using resources right now and I'm terrified every day I'll get in trouble."
Faustina blinks slowly. "You may always ask me if something is allowed. I will do my best to answer. I can not always because some things must be taken to the triumvirate, but I will do my best." She pauses then. "The seeds and discovering their properties are for the long term good of sanctuary. You are not using resources for yourself or against orders. They are a good and possibly should have more resources put in that direction. I will defend your experiments and use of resources in this case. Especially if you keep records and notes. You might inquire of the other professors and work with them on this project. Or at least keep their appraised of your results. If you have more people looking for seeds or people more specialized in growing plants..." Her voice trails off. She shakes her head. "This is not corruption." Her eyes are still not quite focused on the here and now, but she's clearly picking things apart in her head again.
Xavier looks wildly relieved. They put their hand on the notebook on the table, "This is the current volume of my observations. I keep the others with the seeds. Kisses knows where I keep it all and has... the right kind of mind to take over this side of my work. If anything happens to me, like a lab accident. The current Timmy? She knows where I keep the clean back up copies of my Chem side lab notes. I don't want them where they might burn with the working notes and the lab. She's... not well, but she's bright and stubborn, and I'm always watching for the right student healthy enough and bright enough to... um, replace me."
Faustina freezes for a moment, eyes turning to focus on Xavier, then she nods once and swallows. Eventually she says, "Good. Still... having more than one person know where the notes are kept might be a good idea, but it is... good to know that you have thought of such things."
Xavier looks stricken, "I'm really healthy, you know that, right? And I maybe haven't been as, um, careful as I should be the last several years, but I'm really, really trying to do better. To be safer. I want to live to be really old, like Mark. I think... part of why it's so hard to put the world back together is the high Etherite and Reaper mortality rate. we just start getting really good at whatever our specialty is right when we start to get sick. Only I'm not sick. I hardly ever catch cold. My... my body is wrong for long term species survival, but if I'm careful with my chemicals and stay out of the sun and rain, I should be all right to train a whole extra generation of chemists and biochemists. I just..." Their eyes slide away from her, "I get scared sometimes is all. I'm... like the plants here, I think."
Faustina bobs her head in a jerky nod. "I know. I am... mostly healthy. It would be good for more of the Savvy to survive. They are needed. Expertise is difficult to replace. It is a loss of all the resources that went in to training them when one dies."
Xavier reaches out and gently touches her rist with a gloved hand, "Fausty, I wouldn't be able to... you are essential to me continuing to... I'm kind of a mess? I think I have been for a long time. I'm getting better, I think, but I can't... If anything happens to you fausty I think I wont be able to..." They take a breath, and frame it in Faustina paradigm, "I anything bad happens to you, I'd stop being a useful resource for sanctuary. I wouldn't intend to, but I think I'd sort of, um, lose it? And Chemistry is really precise. And sometimes dangerous. The best way you can take care of me is to take care of you."
Faustina blinks rapidly and walks over to sit down on the end of his bed. "I... I will try. But I am a Copper and we are called to do things which may not be safe for us at times. If anything happens to me, please do your best to continue functioning. I would not want your abilities to be lost as well."
Xavier takes her hand in theirs carefully, like it is a fragile thing. "I love you Sis, very much. You are Mother and Sister and friend to me. you are the sanctuary rock that protects me while I try to... salvage some sort of future for us out of scraps and half remembered rumors. I know how dangerous your work is and how incredibly important. I'm not... I can't ask you to stop any more than you can ask me. Just know you are the very best sister I could have had. no one could have... handled me better, raised me better. I needed... specific growing conditions. I'm fragile in all sorts of ways. You kept me safe even when you didn't know you were doing it. I'm... less fragile now. I think? Maybe? I'm trying to be."
Faustina blinks more and squeezes his hand, but is clearly going into some kind of shut down just at the moment. She keeps looking like she's about to speak and then stopping, over and over again. She does keep holding his hand, though, like it's a lifeline. Finally she utters just one word. "Good."
Xavier places his other hand over hers and sits with her silence for a while, which for him is comfortable. After a while he says, "Would you like to see the seeds? I put them under the bed while I was taking care of the experimental plants."
Faustina blinks more, takes a deep breath, and then nods. After a moment she whispers, "Seeds are good. They are potential for the future." And then even more quietly, like it is a very deep, dark secret, "I care about you so much. More than I should. I justify it because you are a valuable resource for Sanctuary, but it means I will never be perfect at my job."
Xavier nods and adds, "Seeds are hope." They press her hand gently, then let go to pull out the box, offering it to her. It's one of those big plastic with a tone of dividers ones, where the shelves can pull out on a hinge, which Xavier has kept well oiled. Packets of seeds, carefully harvested out of the experiments year after year, all numbered and labeled for reference in the notebooks. Their tone is very gentle, "I never doubted that you did. Not even for a second, Fausty. I'm pretty sure you're the best monitor that's ever been. I think... Monitors can't help but be human, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Justice without compassion would be a...a terrible thing. People trust you for a reason. You're fair. You really do want what's best for us."
Faustina swallows and nods, fingers barely not brushing over the little packets of seeds, like she's not quite willing to touch them, then she blinks at Xavier, looking genuinely confused. "Of course I want what is best for us all. Who would want something else? There are rules and there are reasons for the rules, but the good of Sanctuary and the continuation of us all are the core of that. We just must be careful about exceptions because then it becomes unclear what the rules are and one exception leads to another if people are not extremely careful."
Xavier flashes her a bright smile, "I think some people enjoy the power and privileges that come with the job. Part of why you're so incredibly good at it, is you don't. That even thinking about using your post that way is so foreign you can't really conceptualize it. You are the best of us, really, Sis." They point to a packet, "I think we could make flour for cakes out of seeds like this in an emergency, but they aren't nearly as efficient as what we're using now. This one, um... tends to take over and isn't that pleasant to eat," They make a face, "but I think the ancients made tea and alcohol out of it sometimes when they had nothing better. That is, if I identified it correctly." They point to another set, "These are pretty and smell nice, but i couldn't work out what they were for if anything, but I keep an eye out for books about plants, so you never know." They shrug.
Faustina frowns slightly. "Oh. Yes. That is corrupt, though." She thinks about this for a moment more, but then is distracted by the talk of the seeds and she nods along. "I have seen in books that some plants were just grown for being pretty. It seems so wasteful, but if you have as much water and unpoisoned land as they speak of, maybe it made more sense."
Xavier takes off their gloves and carefully extracts a tiny, shin black seed from the third packet, "Would you like to hold it, Fausty?" They shake their head no, "It's not though. If a five year old, a ten year old, a twenty year old, and a thirty year old all separately break the same rule, would you call for the same consequences, or would you scale the punishment to fit the age, motive, and understanding of the rulebreaker? The five year old might not really understand what they did wrong or why. What if the twenty year old was breaking the rule, but could articulate why they broke it and how in this one emergency the result of the rule breaking was less damaging to sanctuary as a whole than following it? What if the thirty year old broke the rule because they were trying to help someone who was ill recover, thus preserving a human resource at the expense of a single violation of a lesser rule?" They contemplate the seed, "I think the plants not directly useful to us were useful to the ecosystem as a whole often. Maybe they fed birds or pollinators. Maybe they protected more useful to human plants from pests. We don't know, so I keep them in hopes that one day the world will mend enough for them to grow again."
Faustina holds out her hand for the seed and then frowns. "I would look at the circumstances to determine punishment, but that does not mean that a rule was not broken. It would depend on what rule was broken and why and if it was only broken the amount that it needed to be and no further. I did not say that there could not be exceptions. Only that we needed to be very careful about them because each one makes the next one easier. They should be clearly justified and they should be reviewed by more than one person."
Xavier drops it into her palm, "You are holding life in potential in your hand. A piece of the world that was and that we won;t ever live to see come again, but that still might." They nod, "And you think about it really carefully. If an exception might be justified. If it needs review by more than one person, but it's fair rather than equal that you're siding with here. Fair means that context and circumstance vary the punishment. You don't weigh behavior from someone delirious with fever the same as an act done in cold blood on purpose. That's human. A perfect... inhumane enforcer rules wouldn't make that distinction. your humanness actually makes you better at your job than maybe yu think."
Faustina cups the seed carefully in her hand and gently brushes it with a single finger from her other hand. "It would if it understood the costs of the punishment. Punishments have costs. Those costs have to be weighed against the cost of not enforcing the rules. A perfect intelligence would know all the costs and all the benefits and be able to calculate what is best."
Xavier cocks their head, "I think... we live in a world of best we can do rather than one of perfect." The seed is smooth to the touch.
Faustina very carefully holds the seed back out to Xavier for him to put back in its packet. "I know, but it is still a goal towards which to work. The world is broken and we are broken with it, but we can try to repair it."
Xavier exracts it and puts it back, "Um... as long as you know that perfect isn't obtainable and that you don't, uh, blame yourself for not being, um, something no one can be?"
Faustina narrows her eyes a little. "I am aware that it is unobtainable. I just said that. One should still try to get as close as possible, though." She says nothing about blaming or not blaming herself for being unable to achieve it, though.
Xavier lifts their chin and says firmly, "It's the self blame I worry about, Fausty. That you might... hurt yourself inside because you set a standard so high for yourself that even you can't reach it. In chemistry, there is the formula. It sort of... gives the ratio? Like two of this to one of this plus heat equals this other thing. Only in real life, it's not always exact. Maybe some of it burns off or there's a drop more of the second thing or whatever. The ratio is correct on a molecule level, but humans don't measure on an individual molecule level. The equipment to see things that tiny is long gone even. so we accept that weren't, um Gods or whatever and accept a little wastage is going to occur. We take steps to limit it, but we don't... take the guilt home to our huts at night over that one drop. That way... Um, bad things can happen."
"I will try not to blame myself when I am not perfect. Or need to sleep. Or do not anticipate a problem which occurs. Or can not perfectly calculate what we will need." Faustina takes a deep breath. "I should check on the Garage. And work more. Please close the seed box back up." There is another small pause. "It is not precisely the one drop which concerns me. It is how much all the drops add up to over time. Or that... it is not just one drop, it is liters, but I became used to ignoring the one drop until it became two then five then twenty then a hundred and on and on."
Xavier closes it up and clicks the metal lock on the front closed. They nod, "That's fair. Just... be gentle with yourself, okay? I worry."
Faustina reaches out and touches Xavier's hand, as she shakes her head. "Do not worry about me. I worry enough. If I have value here, it is in making you and others like you more efficient. You are the ones who will save us or not. I just do math and try to make sure the resources are spent in the right ways."
Xavier looks sad, "You are still my sister and I've taken no oath to... be impartial with you."
Faustina's breath catches and her eyes go wide, staring at Xavier for a moment before she looks away. "I need to go back to work. I..." She stops there, breathing faster. "Please take care of yourself. I..." Then she stands and almost trips, but catches herself. "I will check on you soon." And she's heading for the door.
Xavier winces when they realize what they've done, "Oh! yes! Sorry!" They rise, peering after her worriedly, but they don't try to stop her.